MN Bonding committee touring the region, assessing bonding needs - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

MN Bonding committee touring the region, assessing bonding needs

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The state's bonding committee is touring Northeastern Minnesota, trying to establish how the Northlands bonding needs stack up against the 3.2 billion dollars worth of bonding money organizations around the state have requested.   

Republicans still have majority control in the House and Senate, but the committee will need to work across party aisles to establish one, bipartisan bill. 

"I have to work with Democrats, we have to get Democrats to buy in on the projects we're doing, and then we'll put the bill together," said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R - Grove City and chair of the bonding committee. 

One of the big needs in Duluth is 7-million dollars for phase II of the Steam Plant upgrade. Earlier this year, the plant received 15-million dollars for key energy upgrades, which was for phase one of the project. Duluth will also be requesting bonding money for additional upgrades at UMD, for the Port Authority, WLSSD, the Glensheen Mansion, and many others. The bonding committee is getting a first hand look at those projects needs. 

"It is important for us to go out and see these projects, to vet. That's part of the process of making sure we get a bill done," said Urdahl. 

In rural northeastern Minnesota, many of the bonding requests are focused on making the region's rich tourism industry more robust. In Silver Bay, the mayor wants to add a 63 site campground. In Grand Marais, the mayor is looking for money for a multi-million dollar project aimed at increasing and improving their water access to Lake Superior. 

"It's tremendously important that we fund these projects because we're the state's playground," said Rep. Rob Ecklund, D - International Falls. 

Achieving a bonding bill requires bi-partisan support, and a three-fifths majority vote in the Republican controlled house. 

"We'll certainly work with the Duluth delegation, the rest of the Range delegation to try to make sure all of our projects get to the forefront," said Ecklund. 

2016 and 2017 were littered with bonding and budgeting hiccups by the state legislature - most notably the failure to pass 2016's bonding bill before passing it in a non-bonding year in 2017. 

Urdahl says he doesn't foresee similar issues in 2018. "I don't anticipate that happening again. Most of the time, the bonding bill goes through, as it's presented, and that's what I expect is going to happen this time."

Of the 3.2-billion dollars in bonding requests, the state is looking at shelling out between 500-million and 1-billion dollars of bonding money in 2018. 

While this tour gives lawmakers a better perspective on the needs of Northeast Minnesota, it's not a guarantee for any site visited. 

The delegation made several stops up the North Shore on Wednesday, before spending the evening on the Iron Range, listening to bonding requests there. 

2016 was the normal bonding bill, but the state legislature failed to pass a bonding bill then. Gov. Dayton didn't call a special session. 
That makes this year's bonding bill was just catchup from 2016, and the state now resumes the normal bonding bill schedule in 2018. 

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